Gold openwork plaque showing Amenemhat IV

Probably from Byblos (modern Lebanon)
12th Dynasty, around 1795 BC

Amenemhat IV offering ointment to Atum

The purpose of this plaque is uncertain. As there are no suspension loops or other fastenings, it is unlikely to be a pectoral (ornament worn on the chest). It is possible that it was used to decorate a larger object such as a box or other item of furniture.

The plaque was made using the technique called 'ajouré'. The design is cut out of sheet metal by using a chisel to punch around the outline; the Egyptian craftsman did not possess shears or fine saws. To get over the difficulty of producing smooth edges, strips of metal were soldered onto the base plate to provide cells into which inlay could be added. This technique was often used to produce pectorals and other pieces of jewellery.

Openwork pieces without further adornment are quite rare. Here the details on the figures and hieroglyphs have been chased onto the metal using a fine chisel and mallet. The work is of extremely high quality, particularly the delicate modelling of the muscles of the legs of the figures.

The discovery of the plaque at Byblos shows that Egypt had contacts, probably through trade, with this important port during the Middle Kingdom (2040-1750 BC).

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More information


E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)

I. Shaw and P. Nicholson (eds.), British Museum dictionary of A (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


Width: 3.000 cm
Length: 3.000 cm

Museum number

EA 59194



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